AGENCIES, Patna/New Delhi: The BJP’s “free coronavirus vaccination for all” promise in Bihar ahead of next week’s election has become hugely controversial with the ruling party fending off allegations of an appalling attempt to use the vaccine for its political agenda.
“As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday, announcing the BJP’s manifesto for the Bihar election.
Later, a similar announcement followed in Tamil Nadu, where elections are due next year. “Once a COVID vaccine is ready, it will be provided to all people of the state free of cost,” announced Chief Minister E. Palaniswami of the state’s ruling AIADMK, a BJP ally.
There is a global race to produce a coronavirus vaccine and trials are on in many countries, including India. But this is the first time that a vaccine, especially one that is still work in progress, is an election promise.
Refer to your state election schedules to know when to get the Covid vaccine, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi quipped. “Government just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises,” the former Congress chief tweeted.
“What about non-BJP ruled states? Indians who didn’t vote BJP will not get free Covid vaccine?” Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) questioned.
Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Chaubey faced the question in Bihar. “The corona vaccine is being made across the world. When it is ready, we have prepared an elaborate plan on distributing the vaccine, who will be given preference etc…Every state will be given free coronavirus vaccine,” the minister told reporters.
As soon as #COVID19 vaccine will be available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the launch of BJP Manifesto for #BiharPolls pic.twitter.com/x4VjVmkA3Q
— ANI (@ANI) October 22, 2020
His clarification failed to cork the deluge of criticism on social media, with some using the hashtag #vaccineelectionism. Congress MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “Tum mujhe vote do main tumhe vaccine (Give me votes, I will give you vaccine)…what appalling cynicism! Will the Election Commission rap her and her shameless government on the knuckles?”